Friday, January 31, 2014

Much Ado About Nothing

In the right context, witty banter can be brilliant.  In other cases, it can be extremely annoying.  What makes one use of a snippy comment endearing as opposed to something that forever ruins a character forever?  Context.  No person seems to walk that fine line between clever dialogue and aggravating self-indulgent smugness better than Joss Whedon.

He honed the skill on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly.  I wasn't really a big fan of Dollhouse, but from the few episodes I saw, it tended to slip a bit into smugness but came back up before I moved on.  He did quite well on Avengers, making a group of superheroes also human in how they spoke to each other.

So, what happens when a man who is almost best known for how he has characters talk takes on a project where he gets nothing to do with the dialogue?

You get a remarkably unique movie experience.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Erik Eats Cereal: Golden Grahams

I vividly recall the commercials for Golden Grahams cereal.  "How do they cram all that graham?"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Nine

Today at Ask Erik we're going to tackle something a bit less nerdy and a bit more healthy.  With obesity rates and health concerns racking up medical bills across the country, and with the recent news that obesity can become an issue for children before they even enter school it seems like people are cutting unhealthy stuff in more and more ways and trying to replace it with a healthy "alternative."

But is it really that much better for you?

To Erik: Are baked potato chips really healthier than fried potato chips?

Yes and no.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

G5 Games

If you have a smart phone or an iDevice, you probably know that's it's pretty fun to just be able to pull it out and load up a short game you can play on a lunch break, on a car trip, or even while sitting in bed waiting to fall asleep.  There are lots of little companies that all try to carve out their own little niche in the marketplace, but from my exposure so far, none seem to be able to spam out games as quickly as G5 does.

Having played through some of their games now, I've come to come conclusions that I will share below.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego Part One

While I love the cartoon show Mighty Max, I hit a good temporary stopping point.  They wrapped up their first major plot point, we saw Max grow as a hero, and I think that actually was the final episode of season one.  

So, where to go from here? 

Honestly, I made a list, numbered it, and then had a random number generator pick.  It could just as easily have been another season of My Little Pony, another look at Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills, a peek into history with Liberty Kids, or even digging into something a bit more Japanese.

Heck, I had Totally Spies on that list, because I'm willing to cut any show with Jennifer Hale playing a secret agent some slack.

What it did land on was my DVD containing four episodes of Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego, and I'm pretty excited by this.  I've already said before that Carmen Sandiego is, in my eyes, the most interesting woman in video game history simply because we knew nothing about her.  She was the world's greatest thief, she had a love of red trenchcoats and awesome red hats, and she could steal anything that wasn't nailed down and pretty much anything that was.  Heck, she stole entire rivers and the entire city of Casablanca.

She doesn't mess around.  The Hope Diamond is for rookies.

So let's look back at the program, starting with a brief introductory reminder of the fact that there used to be two programs based around the world's greatest thief.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Invention Of Lying

Confession time again.

I think this might be the first thing other than a TV commercial that I've ever watched that has Ricky Gervais in a starring role.

I never saw the English The Office, I haven't watched An Idiot Abroad, and I haven't watched Extras.

But hey, at least I'm catching up, right?

So here's the summary of my first exposure to Ricky Gervais: The Invention Of Lying.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Erik Eats Cereal: Frosted Cheerios

I'm not even going to bother cutting the post for space, because this is going to be remarkably short.
Frosted Cheerios tastes like sweet Cheerios.  That's it.  I've never seen any ads for it, I remember when it first came on the market and I'm honestly somewhat amazed that it's still on the market.

If you want sweetened Cheerios, you know what you do?  You buy Honey Nut Cheerios.  If you're allergic to nuts, you've got oat rings and sugar, I'm pretty sure you could just sprinkle some sugar over your Cheerios and save some money.

I give it a 4 out of 10 for simply being the most redundant cereal I've ever tasted.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Eight

With a new year, it seems like I should probably update the header for this column.  The standard three paragraphs take up way too much space, and while I tried to be cute with the questions in the middle and make them unique each time, I'd rather just get to the actual article.  There will be a new header coming, I just have to think of it.

Does anybody out there know Malcolm McDowell?  If he could narrate an introduction, I'd put that sound clip up at the start of each article.

So, on to the question!

To Erik: What do you think of Disney working on more Star Wars movies?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Uncharted 3

Let's talk difficulty curves.

Video games have a very delicate balance to walk when it comes to making a game just hard enough to be challenging while still making it fun.  For the most part, you get a difficulty curve along the lines of this:

The longer you play (the line going right) the harder the difficulty gets (the line going up).  Some games have a steeper difficulty curve than others, while some simply go flat once you reach a certain point because you've unlocked everything and the game can't make itself any harder and still either remain "realistic" or just become cheap.  This becomes especially difficult in open world games, where you can't always punish people by making a lynx in one part of the map a hundred times harder to kill than a lynx somewhere else on the map.

What does this have to do with Uncharted 3?  Well, either my game is glitchy, or the difficulty curve is so steep it should have a black diamond sign next to it for anybody trying to ski down it.

This is my review of Uncharted 3, a game I might not finish.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Thirteen

We're at a pivotal point with Mighty Max this week!  We get a conclusion to one of the major dangling plot threads, proving that even a "monster of the week" show can have some semblance of continuity.  We're also at the last episode I'm going to do for a while, as is does feel like the end of the first "season."  I'm not sure what will be next, it might be the second season of My Little Pony, or perhaps try to dig up some more The Neverending Story episodes.

It's a pretty safe bet I won't go for anything with Mario in it.

Maybe I'll just gather up a stack of random DVDs and pick one at random.

If anybody has a request, let me know!  I'll see what I can do to accommodate it.  And remember, the more painful it is, the more I'll resent you for it when I'm done.

But anyway, let's get right into the episode, because I can't wait to watch this one again.  It's one of the few I can honestly remember almost every scene from, and my inner cartoon fan (the younger version of it, anyway) is almost giddy.

"The Maxnificent Seven."  I see what you did there.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Warm Bodies

Hollywood has actually done a pretty good job converting the classic plays of Shakespeare over to more updated, modern styles.  For instance, 10 Things I Hate About You is pretty high on my "I enjoyed this" list, though that might also have to do with the fact that Julia Stiles is in it.  You have films like Forbidden Planet, My Own Private Idaho, O, The Lion King, all doing a really good job bringing his classic works into the modern day.  In fact, it's hard to think of any that were just simply a bad telling of his stori-oh wait., yeah, there is that.

Now, if any story has been done to death, it's Romeo and Juliet.  Two young people fall in love, their parents disapprove, and either love wins in the end or everybody dies.  If I just spoiled the plot, then shame on you.

So, how do you keep the story line interesting and fresh?  By taking the "Romeo dies" part and putting it at the beginning!

Here's my review of Warm Bodies.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Erik Eats Cereal: Apple Jacks

Maybe I was just strange when I was growing up, but I liked to actually know what it was I was putting into my mouth when I was eating.  Frequently, when my parents would serve me a new dish, I'd ask, "what is it?"  Then, upon receiving a response like moussaka, tetrazini, or polenta, I'd then repeat my question, "okay, but what is it?"

I think that might be why I was always leery of Apple Jacks when I was young, because there seemed to be a genuine conflict between the packaging and the advertising.

For instance, let's turn to special guest Julia Stiles:

Okay, so Apple Jacks don't taste like apples, right?  That's fine, Froot Loops don't actually taste like "froot," so I can live with that.  So what do they taste like?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Seven

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies and TV shows, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries.  Who had the original idea for a lottery?  Why do some cottons itch but others don't?  Why can't American TV programs do short seasons with clear beginnings, middles, and endings like British TV?

I mean, seriously, why would I watch Under The Dome when the mystery is "will they get out of the dome" and I can figure they probably aren't going anywhere if there's going to be a second season?  I mean, unless it's a metaphorical dome, but that'd be stupid.

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

To Erik: You seem to like things that are "insane" but not "stupid."  What's the most insane comic you ever read?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

Anybody who read my review of the first Uncharted game knows I was less than generous with my language.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's in my top three worst game playing experiences, right up there with F-Zero for the GameCube and ... Well, third place is up in the air.  But I really hated playing that game.

So, with most second parts of stories being the best part of the trilogy (Godfather, Spider-Man, Nolan's Batman movies, Back to the Future, etc.), will this one change my mind and get me to like the characters, story, and whatever else it decides to throw at me?

Well, I'll spoiler this much: I didn't hate it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Twelve

I think we all know my little speech by now, and I don't think anybody would deny that the late 80's and early 90s were a new golden age for animated television.  Every show did its best to claw out a niche in tightly packed schedules, knowing that if their ratings managed to slip for even a barest moment, they'd be thrown out for a few reruns of Bugs Bunny followed by the next big thing.

I mean, I think the Country Bears cartoon show only lasted one episode, at least that's how I remember it, anyway.

One that constantly falls under the radar of people looking back nostalgically is Mighty Max, a show that has so far managed to pay an homage to the Aliens franchise, Norse mythology, and now John Carpenter's The Thing.

You know, for kids!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Podblast! Eban Schletter's Fantastical Musicorium

Every now and again my attention gets grabbed by something small.  It might be the origin of those YKK zippers that seem to be on every article of clothing owned by everybody everywhere, or a single minor actor or actress that I recognize from more than one thing.  Every now and again, though, it's music that catches my ear, and when I discover that someone's doing something new and exciting with an instrument that's not really in the public eye, I get intrigued.

For instance, I've been following the news story of the man whose rare bamboo flutes were either destroyed or lost by customs agents, putting him out of a job with quite some interest because I find the fact that he could make them fascinating.

Another instrument I find interesting is the theremin, an instrument that seems extremely corny until you hear it performed by someone with great skill.  Such is Eban Schletter, the most unusual name I'll probably ever put on my blog.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Erik Eats Cereal: Corn Pops

One of the ad campaigns I remember the most growing up was for the cereal Corn Pops.  It followed the same basic formula of- well, let's let The West Wing and Psych's Dule Hill explain it to us:

Something gets between young person and cereal, kid starts to suffer a full mental breakdown because apparently Corn Pops are laced with opiates and withdrawal is a horrible thing to see someone go through.  Situation winds up being resolved casually, and kid acts like it was no big deal.

Repeat that same formula for years with the same theme music from Jaws, and you've summarized every Kellogg's board meeting involving the cereal during that time period.

Some of them got a bit creepy, though.

I'm pretty sure that mother arrived seconds before he beat that little girl to death with a grapefruit.  Maybe it's the crazed look in his eye, maybe the way he just casually asks "Where's Mom?" while reaching for the largest blunt object on the counter, I don't know, it just feels like it was seconds away from being a Dateline episode.

I've had Corn Pops twice in the past few weeks, once just yesterday, and here's my summary of the flavor:

It tastes ridiculously sweet, with a faint popcorn like flavor buried underneath it all.

That's it.  I had to struggle to remember that much, because there really isn't anything innovative or unusual about the flavor.  It didn't offend me, it didn't astound me, it just felt completely safe and inoffensive.  That's not necessarily bad, and it might've worked when I was young, but for an adult palate I want something that interests me.  The taste of honey, or a touch of cocoa, those are flavors that are interesting.  Feeling like I just poured milk over popcorn doesn't really feel like breakfast to me, it feels like something I'd eat when I was broke and had to scrounge what food was left in the pantry and fridge.  Even then, I'd probably eat the popcorn and drink the milk.

Before anybody assumes that I just want to rag on every cereal I taste, I'll point out that I actually liked Cocoa Puffs, and there's one more coming up next week that I actually thought was really interesting.  This one just... it just doesn't stick with me or make me crave more.

Oh, and it seemed to get soggy ridiculously fast when I poured milk over it each time.  I'm guessing the cereal is 40% sugar, 20% corn, and 40% air.

So I guess if I had to rank it from one to ten, I'd give Corn Pops a five.  It's dead middle of the road, not strong either way.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ask Erik: Episode Forty-Six

Here at Ask Erik we've spent a lot of time reading novels and comic books, playing video games, and watching television and movies in order to amass a deep vault of pop culture knowledge.  While constantly trying to still gather new information, it seems only prudent to share some of what we learned to help solve some of the world's greatest questions.

Will the next Olympics be any riskier or somehow safer than ones in large cities?  Do actors who are typecast for "bad guy" roles ever feel insulted by it?  Why can't people I know figure out that just because someone links to something on Facebook it doesn't mean it happened recently?  That girl accused of witchcraft in Oklahoma was in 2000, people, read the article!

...where was I?  Oh, right.  Once a week Erik tackles a question asked to him and tries to answer it in a method that handles the topic with the respect and attention it deserves.  Failing that, he'll at least try to make it funny so you don't regret the time spent reading it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune

The Uncharted series falls in with the Halo series, the Gears of War series, and other games from the past generation of systems that aren't likely to die any time soon.  Each game has received mountains of accolades, and multiple sources have named various entries in the series as the "Game of the Year" for that year.  However, as we all know, I'm terribly behind when it comes to "big" titles, but having played more recent games from Naughty Dog studios, will these hold up to my eye?  Can they tolerate being overthought about?  Was that last sentence even grammatically correct?  At least two of these questions will hopefully be answered in the upcoming weeks.

So let's start out with the first game of the series, the rookie entry that managed to be picked as Ign's game of the year of 2007 for the PS3 and maintains a score on Metacritic in the high 80s.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The "M" Stands For Mighty Part Eleven

Looking back at my youth, I wasn't nearly as spoiled for entertainment options as kids these days.  I couldn't load up games on a phone, I had a Game Boy and I had to carry around any games I wanted to play in a pouch.  Plus, they didn't cost just a few dollars to own.  I didn't have hundreds of channels to pick and choose entertainment from on giant screens that made movie theater technology of the time seem quaint.

What I did have was what might be the second golden age of cartoons after the days when Disney and Looney Tunes first erupted onto the scene, with such greats as Animaniacs, Duck Tales, Gargoyles, Freakazoid, and any number of other great programs who knew that in order to survive on television you had to be great because there wasn't a minor cable channel you could hide on to maintain a cult following.

One show that I think gets swept under the rug and forgotten about way too much is Mighty Max, which is why I'm doing an ongoing project of reviewing the series and seeing how it holds up.  I'm leery about this one, because cartoon episodes featuring mixing humans and animals almost never turns out well.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Review: Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons

So I guess one advantage to being back in the stage of "trying to get as many job interviews lined up as I can" is that it gives me some down time between emails and calls to catch up on a few things that were always on my "to do" list.

For instance, I kept meaning to play a game from Xbox Live Arcade (though it's also available on PSN and Steam) called Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, but just never found the time.

Well, that's one thing off the list.

Now, let's talk about an early contender for my top eleven of 2014 and the first week isn't even over yet.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Erik Eats Cereal: Trix (With Fruitalicious Swirls!)

First off, a bonus point to Trix for not trying to get away with something like "Frootalicious."

Minus one point because "Fruitalicious" is still a stupid word.

I'm almost sure that Trix came about because a random cocoa puff tried to mate with a froot loop, and this was the result.  It has the same lightness and shape of the cocoa puff, but the coloring is clearly from something that tries to get away with its own spelling.

Funny how two bird mascots would wind up producing a rabbit, though.

So let's get down to the review.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top Eleven: Top Eleven Of 2013

So yesterday I decided to revisit the source of most of the pain I felt doing this blog and look at the eleven worst things I had to deal with.  So let's turn it around for the eleven things I enjoyed reviewing, discussing, or simply prompting like an unpaid advertiser in the year 2013.